This being our third and final season at Mount Washington, we decided that this would be the year we would explore other resorts. We would have loved to during previous seasons as well, but finances and coordinating time off is easier said than done!
Going to the mainland for a short trip does actually require a fair bit of effort and money – it is $165 just for the return trip on the ferry for a car and two passengers for example. Luckily, Mount Washington has reciprocal deals with other mountains for staff members (and season pass holders) so some of the discounts received on lift tickets would offset the ferry cost. Well, that’s how I justified it to myself anyway!
Funny thing, part of my job is to confirm these reciprocal deals with other resorts every season, so it was particularly nice to be able to finally take advantage myself.
heading to the interior
Our first trip in late January took us to Silver Star and Big White, both in the Thompson Okanagan region of BC, located almost 400km east of Vancouver. It’s been such a strange winter season here on the West Coast that our trip to the interior actually ended up being only a week or so after Mount Washington opened for the season. I had only managed to get out on the slopes for a few days before we left. Having our trip to the interior booked for months and the snow still pretty lean at Mount Washington anyway, we set off on a hunt for snow.
Despite being able to open as normal before Christmas, both Silver Star and Big White were experiencing seasons a bit different to normal too; the large amounts of snowfall expected in December and January just hadn’t happened, and staff were openly lamenting ab0ut the lack of powder days. Driving through the mountains on the way to the interior can be dangerous or even impossible in the winter (the highways can be closed due to snowfall or avalanche risk), but we had no problems at all since January had been such a dry month.
a quiet time at silver star
Of the two, Big White was definitely our favourite and I don’t think it was just because we spent two days there compared to the one at Silver Star. We arrived at Silver Star on a Monday night and our first impressions weren’t great. It was so quiet and almost everything in the village seemed to be shut, either because it was Monday or for refurbishment. We found a couple of accommodation places open, but their prices were way out of our range and/or the front desk person completely ignored us.
I don’t think Silver Star is a Monday night kind of place. Either that or we were very unlucky. We ended up staying at the SameSun hostel, which was well below our budget and was in a great location.
trying new runs
Silver Star itself had some amazing views of the surrounding mountains, worth the trip alone I think. It is an expansive mountain, with a lot of intermediate trails. The thing about going to a new resort is that the level of the runs can be different to what you’re used to, so you’re advised to try a green (easiest) and then upgrade from there. Both of the first greens took us to the very edge of the terrain and were completely flat. Not so much fun when you’re snowboarding let me tell you. Then we tried a blue – it ended up being as steep as some of the black diamond runs (hardest) at Mount Washington! This was when I realised the value of ‘Mountain Hosts’ who offer advice on runs and take guests on tours.
a bluebird day
Despite some fun with working out where to go and even losing each other at one point, we still had a fantastic day. It was a perfect blue bird day and pretty quiet, so it really wasn’t a bad place to get a bit lost. We managed to explore the village a little more in the afternoon too; Jean Robert particularly appreciated the Australian pies on offer, thanks to the high population of Aussie staff at the resort.
two days at big white
We had a much better experience at Big White, probably because I did a little bit more research on both accommodation and trails before we arrived. Big White instantly felt a lot busier and bigger than Silver Star, with a lot more lifts, accommodation options, restaurants and things to do. I will take a guess that locals most likely prefer Silver Star while Big White is better for tourists like us. Our condo was right in the middle of the ski in-ski out
Our condo was right in the middle of the ski in-ski out village, close to the gondola that takes you down to the skating rink, huge Tubing park and ice climbing wall. We actually had one of our best meals in Canada at Big White; British cider with soda bread ploughman’s at the Blarney Stone Irish Tavern. Not very Canadian eh.
exploring big white
There are some great intermediate areas at Big White including one with an amazingly good (and fairly cheap!) pierogi stand at the bottom of the lift. Having two days there did help since we were able to explore more and find the areas that were better for us. I still think Big White was a better overall hill for the experience we wanted. Silver Star won over Big White with the weather for sure; it was pretty cold and very windy at times with not nearly as much blue sky around. We heard that Big White is known for bad white-outs, so we considered ourselves pretty lucky.
The highest skating rink in Canada
a move to the okanagan?
If we hadn’t fallen in love with the Island back in 2011, I seriously think we may have ended up living near Kelowna. Hot in summer with lots to do (including hundreds of lakes to paddle!) and two great resorts nearby for winter fun, it would have been an awesome place to settle. We may come back to this area in summer or autumn, to explore more outside the resorts!